Pennsylvania Raw Milk Regulations Scheduled for Overhaul?

By Pete Kennedy

Update, Fall 2003: In Summer 2003 (see below) we reported on plans by the Division of Milk Sanitation of the Bureau of Food Safety of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to overhaul regulations regarding the sale of raw milk. Several farmers had been told by their inspectors that the new regulations would eliminate provisions for sale of raw milk in the State of Pennsylvania. Members of the Weston A. Price Foundation and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture then initiated a letter-writing campaign, culminating in a press release from Art Hershey, Chairman of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Agriculture Committee stating that the State had no plans to change the regulations regarding the sale of raw milk. When pressed, Mr. Hershey’s office said that plans to eliminate raw milk was nothing but a “rumor.” We think that our letter-writing campaign put a stop to plans to eliminate raw milk sales, about which the inspectors were apprised. We have yet to see the new proposed regulations but will keep our members informed of any changes that may affect raw milk sales in Pennsylvania.

Update, Summer 2003: We received the following letter from Bobby McLean, in response to concerns regarding the sale of raw milk in Pennsylvania: July 7, 2003–This letter is written in response to your concerns regarding the sale of raw milk in Pennsylvania. Based on correspondence received, there appears to be considerable misinformation and concern over the raw milk issue. I will attempt to address these concerns in this letter. It is important to note there are no current or planned actions by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture that will remove a dairy farmer’s right to sell raw milk or a consumer’s right to buy raw milk. However, all producers must have a permit from the Department and must follow the requirements of the permit. Further, the Department has no knowledge of any pending legislation to eliminate the sale of raw milk in Pennsylvania. The sale of raw milk in Pennsylvania is permitted under the Pennsylvania Milk Sanitation Law (31 P.S. Sec. 645 et. seq) (“Act”). This law is intended to safeguard human health and safety by providing for the issuance of permits to, and regulation of persons and entities selling milk and milk products. The Act (at 31 P.S. Sec. 646) states: “no person shall sell milk, milk product or manufactured dairy products within this Commonwealth without first having obtained a permit from the Secretary”. Another issue that many have raised relates to the sale of raw milk products. The law prohibits the sale of raw milk products except aged hard cheese which is cured at temperatures of not less that 35 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 60 days. If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Jim Dell, Chief, Division of Milk Sanitation, at 717-787-4316. Your concerns are understood and we want to work together to help insure that milk and milk products sold in Pennsylvania are safe and wholesome. Sincerely, Bobby McLean

Update, Summer 2003: Pennsylvania Raw Milk Regulations Scheduled for Overhaul–Late this fall the Division of Milk Sanitation of the Bureau of Food Safety of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is due to overhaul regulations regarding the sale of raw milk. Some farmers fear the intent will be to close existing “loopholes” that make sales of raw milk possible. It is therefore important to communicate with these state officials so that they know raw milk is important to us consumers. Letters or phone calls should be courteous, positive and non-confrontational (and you do not necessarily need to be from Pennsylvania to write or call). Do not mention specific suppliers as they might get in trouble.The officials are familiar with the arguments for raw milk, so the main point should be along the lines of (1) We love raw milk; (2) Thank you for your hard work as public officials; (3) We look forward to greater availability of raw milk and other raw dairy products like butter and yogurt in the future; and (4) We hope you can protect our rights as consumers to purchase from farmers we trust, and help ensure the livelihood of these small independent producers. Some relevant officials are: James Dell, Director of the Division of Milk Sanitation: 717-787-3233, jdell@state.pa.us; Bobby McLean, director of the PA Bureau of Food safety: 717-787-4248, bmclean@state.pa.us; Dennis Wolff, Secretary of Agriculture: 717-772-2853, dwolff@state.pa.us; Art Hershey, Chairman of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Agriculture Committee: 717-783-6435, ahershey@pahousegop.com

Pete Kennedy

Pete Kennedy is an attorney from Sarasota, Florida and president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (farmtoconsumer.org). He compiled the state milk laws posted at realmilk.com. He advises many farmers and members about legal issues surrounding raw milk.

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